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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

MEN OF MATHEMATICS
in some of his work) said in his commemorative address to the
Royal Society of Gottingen in 1917: 'Richard Dedekind was not
only a great mathematician, but one of the wholly great hi the
history of mathematics, now and in the past, the last hero of a
great epoch, the last pupil of Gauss, for four decades himself a
classic, from whose works not only we, but our teachers and the
teachers of our teachers, have drawn.*
Richard Dedekind, the youngest of the four children of Julius
Levin Ulrich Dedekind, a professor of law, was born in Bruns-
wick, the natal place of Gauss.* From the age of seven to sixteen
Richard studied at the Gymnasium in his home town. He gave
no early evidence of unmistakable mathematical genius; in fact
his first loves were physics and chemistry, and he looked upon
mathematics as the handmaiden - or scullery slut - of the
sciences. But he did not wander long in darkness. By the age of
seventeen he had smelt numerous rats hi the alleged reasoning
of physics and had turned to mathematics for less objectionable
logic. In 1848 he entered the Caroline College - the same institu-
tion that gave the youthful Gauss an opportunity for self-
instruction in mathematics. At the college Dedekind mastered
the elements of analytic geometry, 'advanced' algebra, the
calculus, and 'higher' mechanics. Thus he was well prepared to
begin serious work when he entered the University of Gottingen
in 1850 at the age of nineteen. His principal instructors were
Moritz Abraham Stern (1807-94), who wrote extensively on the
theory of numbers, Gauss, and Wilhelm Weber the physicist.
* No adequate biography of Dedekind has yet appeared. A life was
to have been included in the third volume of his collected works
(1932), but was not, owing to the death of the editor in chief (Robert
Fricfce). The account here is based on Landau's commemorative
address. Note that, following the good old Teutonic custom of some
German biographers, Landau omits all mention of DedekincTs
mother. This no doubt is in accordance with the theory of the 'three
KV propounded by the late Kaiser of Germany and heartily
endorsed by Adolf Hitler: *A woman's whole duty is comprised in the
three big K?s - Kissing, Kooking [kooking is spelt with a K in
German], and Kids,' Still, one would like to know at least the maiden
name of a great man's mother.
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